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Progressive Red Sox give Pavano VIP treatment

As if reigning as world champions were not enough, the Red Sox yesterday tried to make all the right moves in selling Carl Pavano on joining -- or helping to replace -- Pedro Martinez in their starting rotation. Sox officials made their pitch to Pavano the day after they returned from contract talks in Florida with Martinez without a deal in place.

While their talks with Martinez will continue, the Sox forged ahead with Pavano, a free agent who could fit well in the rotation with or without Martinez. Manager Terry Francona joined general manager Theo Epstein in giving Pavano a VIP view of Fenway Park and the team's resources before they traveled to Medfield to visit Curt Schilling and shared dinner last night.

The Sox did not present an offer to Pavano, who made Boston the first stop on a national informational tour of cities where he is considering playing next season. The 28-year-old righthander went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA last season for the Marlins as he enters the prime of his career.

"Carl was very happy to spend some time with Theo and Terry," his agent, Scott Shapiro, said. "He has a lot of respect for Schill, and he was very impressed with Boston as a first-class organization."

Pavano, who was traded as a farmhand by the Sox with Tony Armas Jr. to the Expos in 1997 for Martinez, has rejected a three-year, $21 million offer to stay with the Marlins. Though the Sox have been reluctant to guarantee a third year for Martinez, they almost certainly

would for Pavano because of his age. But a more immediate question for the Sox may be, will the Yankees guarantee Martinez a third year? Two days after Martinez met with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa, manager Joe Torre told reporters in Dallas he would welcome Martinez as he would any top-flight pitcher.

"Pedro's one of the elite pitchers in baseball," Torre said before he spoke at Southern Methodist University, according to the Associated Press. "As a manager, you want all the toys on the shelf, there's no question."

Torre said the Yankees need to beef up their starting rotation, which he described as "the thinnest" in his nine years as manager. And Torre seemed intrigued by the possibility of acquiring Martinez.

"I don't know what's going to come of it," he said. "Having George meet with him -- he doesn't meet with people just for the sake of meeting them. He's certainly thinking in terms of helping our ball club."

The Sox and Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, remained tight-lipped about their negotiations. But there seems to be a chance the Sox and Yankees could rank among the top contenders for Martinez's services, as well as Pavano's.

Both teams have reached out to Pavano, a Connecticut native who first pitched at Fenway in a high school all-star game and originally joined the organization as a 13th-round draft choice in 1994. Pavano also plans stops in New York, Baltimore, Seattle, and Detroit before the winter meetings begin in Anaheim, Calif., Dec. 10.

Shapiro indicated Pavano knows enough about the other teams that have expressed serious interest in him that he does not need to make personal visits. Those teams include the Angels, Phillies, Mets, and Braves.

As part of his stop at Fenway, Pavano became reacquainted with assistant trainer Chris Correnti, who worked with him in the minors and has helped implement successful conditioning programs for many Sox pitchers, particularly Martinez. Pavano also was introduced to the team's extensive digital video library, which enables players to study opponents or their own performances in a multitude of matchups at a moment's notice.

"Carl saw an organization that provides its players with almost every resource they might need to prepare and perform at their best," Shapiro said. "That's something he takes a great interest in."

Pavano took a special interest in visiting Schilling, who had agreed as a Double A farmhand for the Sox in New Britain to mentor Pavano, then in middle school. Pavano traveled to Medfield because Schilling's mobility is limited while he recuperates from right ankle surgery.

While Pavano is a high priority, the Sox also have serious interest in Brad Radke, the Minnesota righthander who is a free agent after going 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA last season. Radke, 32, is seriously considering staying with the Twins, who reportedly have offered him about $15 million over two years. He also has attracted interest from the Yankees and Phillies, among others.

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